ICC Issues Arrest Warrant for Sudanese Defense Minister

On 1 March 2012, the International Criminal Court Pre-Trial Chamber I issued an arrest warrant for Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein, Sudan’s defense minister, for forty-one counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes allegedly committed in the context of the situation in Darfur, Sudan.  Hussein was interior minister and the Darfur special representative of the Sudanese president at the time of the alleged crimes.  The Chamber stated that “[t]hese crimes were allegedly committed against the primarily Fur populations . . . by the Sudanese armed forces and the Militia/Janjaweed in the context of a counter-insurgency campaign against the Sudanese Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A), the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and other groups opposing the Government.”

This arrest warrant adds to the outstanding list of arrest warrants – Ahmed Harun, Ali Kushayb, and President of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir – and comes at a time of renewed conflict in the region.  Despite the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in 2005, the government’s conflict with armed rebels in Darfur has continued for an eighth year.  Government forces have continued attacking displaced populations and villages; in November and December, renewed bombing in eastern Darfur destroyed several villages and killed civilians.  The conflicts have been fueled by arms sales from China, Russia, and Belarus despite an existing UN arms embargo.  Furthermore, the Court has lamented the African Union (AU)’s persistence in flouting the arrest warrant for al-Bashir, with the Chad and Malawi recently reprimanded for their failures to comply with cooperation requests.  The AU is considering seeking advice from the International Court of Justice regarding the immunity of state officials under international law to potentially gain further ammunition for its plans to challenge the ICC warrant against al-Bashir.

Opinions on the arrest warrants are mixed.  Some groups consider the measure a further step in ending impunity in Darfur and putting additional pressure on those wanted.  However, others feel that the Court is setting itself up for failure: with the Sudanese government criminalizing any cooperation with the Court, the ICC may only be hindering its own investigations.  As a new court with limited resources trying to establish its credibility, these groups suggest the Court perhaps should have set its sights a little bit lower.

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